2021

Well, what an arid, teasing month April was. Sunny days that promised balmy temperatures but delivered, often as not, frankly frigid winds, ridiculously cold nights (April 2021 was one of the frostiest for 60 years) and not a drop of rain in sight…

Nonetheless, May being what May is, gardens and the countryside are starting to look sensational; that bright green of young beech leaves luminous against a blue sky, clouds of blossom, the haze of bluebells just beginning to show – it’s all just fabulous.
Allims
Alliums: Bold and beautiful, alliums are architectural gems despite their unromantic membership of the garlic family (April trivia: allium is Latin for garlic and probably links to the Greek aleo (to avoid) due to the smell). They flower heroically in May – the horticultural ‘shoulder’ season - bringing statuesque style to wherever they bloom.
Fruit blossom
Fruit blossom: What a combo – a gorgeous froth of flowers heralding delicious fruit later in the year. From pure white to darkest pink, fruit blossom is surely one of the loveliest sights imaginable. Malus ‘Royalty’ is a winner, its magenta blossom contrasting spectacularly with unfurling beech leaves, whilst Prunus avium ‘Sunburst’ not only bears the prettiest white flowers but goes on to produce fat, juicy, nigh on black cherries come late summer.
Large-flowered Clematis: Spring-flowering clematis certainly pay for their supper, introducing early colour whilst camouflaging a multitude of garden sins. For sheer pizzazz (albeit possibly a tad on the flamboyant side), there’s little to beat the showy iridescent purple and pink blooms of Clematis ‘Fireworks’ that appear in May and June and again in August and September. For a (marginally) more sedate approach, Lasurstern Clematis is another exotic fancy, with enormous, clear blue flowers that burst forth in May and June and again in September.
lily of the valley flower
Lily of the valley: It’s impossible not to eulogise the unforgettable scent and exquisite bell-shaped flowers of lilies of the valley. Not surprisingly, they’ve inspired many a writer, including the maestro Tchaikovsky. ‘I am terribly proud of this poem’, he wrote to his brother. ‘For the first time in my life I have managed to write a fairly good poem, which moreover is deeply heartfelt. I assure you that although it was very difficult, still I worked on it with the same pleasure as I do on music’. Read his beautiful poem, Lilies of the Valley, here.
...BUT YOU COULD BE PLANTING...
Herbs: No summer garden nor kitchen should be without home-grown herbs. A freshly snipped chive, sprig of thyme or spray of chervil knocks spots off a supermarket offering…
Lavender: Plant this month for that iconic summer colour and accompanying buzz of happy bees…
 
Sweet Peas
Sweet peas: The fact that you buy our sweet peas in such prolific quantities that we sell out almost immediately is a much-appreciated testament to their star quality…time to plant for summer scented bliss.  
 
Cosmos
Cosmos: These late summer essentials bear cheery, daisy-like flourishes of colour over delicate, feathery foliage; so easy going and laid back they’re almost horizontal, they’re must-haves for every garden. They are tender, so weather permitting we will be despatching them towards the end of May.
 
Tomato & Chilli Plants
Tomato and chilli plants: Sun-warmed tomatoes sprinkled with fresh basil (grown alongside the tomatoes to deter aphids) and good olive oil...heaven on a plate. Plant our old friend Moneymaker, and while you’re at it, why not plant your own chillis? Some are windowsill friendly and most importantly, chillis don’t have to be rocket fuel!    
 
Watch the video
Our herbs (basil, chamomile, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, fennel, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rocket, rosemary, sage, tarragon & thyme) are sold as maxiplugs or P9s (9cm pots). Do watch the video to see how best to pot them up.
Sir Michael and Lady Colman

In the last of our Through the Treehole interviews, we talk to Sir Michael (scion of the Colmans mustard family) and his wife, Lady Colman. Creators of the award-winning Summerdown Mint brand and loyal Ashridge customers for many years, Michael single-handedly revived the British mint industry when most of his peer group was retiring, whilst Judith is an intrepid traveller and arboretum planter and devotee.
See the full interview here.
THE QUESTION ON EVERYONE’S LIPS…
Every month our customer support team picks out a topic that has generated lots of questions from customers...
My plant doesn’t seem to be establishing. What should I do?

Keep watering it every few days and make sure it’s planted in an appropriate place and in appropriate soil. Lack of water is the number one cause of death in newly-planted and young plants. If you’re still concerned at the end of July, please don’t hesitate to contact customer service with photographs.
 
Water - newly-planted plants (and those planted in the last year) need regular attention
Given the Sahara-type conditions we had in much of April, the watering mantra comes as no surprise, although May is looking rather soggier. Morning is best for watering, as plants transpire in sunlight, pulling in water through their roots. Evening watering is OK (and far preferable to watering in the heat of the day), but leaves and the surrounding earth are likely to stay damp for longer, encouraging beastly pests such as slugs and snails…
And now the magic question of how much is ‘enough’? A proper watering every few days is far better than a quick sprinkle that will not only evaporate quickly but encourage shallow rooting. Pots and newbies will need more frequent watering, established plants a good dose less frequently. In either case, experts slowly wet the ground or pot first then water thoroughly once the soil is damp enough to retain the precious liquid.
JOBS FOR THE GARDEN

A FEW TIPS FOR THE MONTH IF YOU HAVE THE TIME AND INCLINATION!

  • Plant and check on all climbers (honeysuckle, wisteria, clematis and jasmines). They grow like billy-o at this time of year and new shoots that aren’t tied in will tangle badly with themselves and neighbouring plants. Keep shoots well spaced for maximum exposure to sunlight and better blooms.
  • If May is dry, water fruit trees – and everything else as well.
  • Feed tomato plants weekly with a high potash fertiliser.
  • Deadhead bulbs; nip off faded blooms before seedpods arrive to channel energy back into the bulb for next year.
  • Lift and divide daffs and other bulbs.
  • Plant out dahlia tubers after the last frost.
  • Trim hedges after checking for nesting birds.
  • Mow the lawn, bearing in mind that lawns mown only once a month attract 10 times as many bees. It’s called No Mow May (which is almost impossible to say). Compromise aesthetic and eco with 2 lengths of grass.
  • Wage war on weeds.
  • Plant out herbaceous plants.
  • Plant hostas to cheer shady areas but remember they are caviar to slugs.
  • Beware of late frosts.
And last but not least…
Mint Julep Recipe
The bourbon based Mint Julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby (which runs on 1st May) since 1939 – bourbon being the signature spirit of Kentucky. Juleps originated in Persia and Michaelangelo apparently had a daily dose for medicinal purposes… use home-grown mint for your own delicious version!
RECENT BLOGS
Our blogs are written by garden designers and passionate gardeners (not mutually exclusive) making them well informed and opinionated... So if you want ideas that may be relevant to your garden have a look at this month's scribblings:
Vertical Planting Ideas & Social Climbers
SHOP CATEGORIES
Dahlias
Lavender
Gifts
Herbs
Accessories
Sweet Peas
Vegetables
Cosmos
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Grove Cross Barn, Castle Cary, Somerset, BA7 7NJ
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